In 1970 we introduced at Harvard College a General Education course, "The Rise and Fall of Civilizations: An Archaeological Perspective." Increased student interest in the development of past civilizations and new anthropological approaches to study them had prompted us to pool our resources and our particular knowledge of Old World (Lamberg-Karlovsky) and New World (Sabloff) prehistory to conduct this course. We soon realized that there was neither an adequate text nor reader available to provide background for the lectures. This reader is an outgrowth of the need to fill this gap.
We believe that this book is of use on both an introductory level as well as on a more advanced level. It can be used as a basic text in introductory archaeology courses which include surveys of ancient civilizations. The reader can be a profitable aid for instructors of either New World or Old World archaeology courses by providing articles from their own areas of study as well as comparative material from a variety of other ancient civilizations. Moreover, it can be used in general archaeology or anthropology courses to illustrate approaches and new hypotheses archaeologists are currently using to help explain past civilizational developments. This reader will introduce students in history, classical archaeology, or art history courses to the anthropological/archaeological approach to ancient civilizations.
The articles have been selected to provide instructors with clear theoretical or substantive positions which can serve as a springboard for discussion and argument. For example, the evolutionary approach of the articles in Part I can either be supported or refuted in class lectures and discussions. Because the emphasis of this reader is generally theoretical or methodological rather than purely descriptive it can be a supplement to descriptive works such as Muriel Porter Weaver The Aztecs, Maya, and Their Predecessors, Frankfort The Birth of Civilizations in the Near East, or Kramer The Sumerians.
Rather than attempting an encyclopedic coverage of all ancient civilizations, we have chosen certain papers which deal with a limited number of civilizations in detail, with a special emphasis on Mesoamerica and Mesopotamia and additional materials from Peru, Egypt, the Indus, China, and Europe. In particular, we have chosen ancient civilizations which have been the subject of recent archaeological work and which have been covered by clear, concise, and available articles, papers, or chapters. These papers have been reprinted in their original entirety (except in the few cases where noted) with the inclusion of full bibliographies and footnotes. Only a certain number of illustrations have been omitted. Included in the thirty-three readings are four original papers by Willey, Conrad, Day, and Tringham. Each reading is preceded by a short introduction identifying the author(s) and noting the importance of the paper. Our general theoretical point of view is presented in the "Introductory Remarks. . . ."